SPORT NEWS – Indy Lights champions development prize slashed

Indy Lights champions development prize slashed

For profitable the 2014 Indy Lights championship, Gabby Chaves was awarded $1 million as a scholarship to safe a assured seat within the 2015 Indianapolis 500 and two different races on the IndyCar calendar. The development prize initiative was initially conceived by Mazda Motorsports, and was taken to a brand new stage in Indy Lights by IndyCar and Andersen Promotion, its then-new Indy Lights administrator for the Indy Lights collection.

Via 2021, the ultimate yr of Andersen Promotions’ management of Indy Lights, IndyCar contributed $500,000 to the scholarship and Andersen — together with companions corresponding to Mazda and Cooper Tires — coated the remainder of the prize, reaching $1.2 million for 2021 Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood.

Linus Lundqvist, the brand new champion of the Indy Lights collection now owned and solely run by Penske Leisure, and plenty of these within the Lights paddock, have been stunned final weekend to study his scholarship fund to attempt to attain IndyCar subsequent season was slashed to $500,000.

The previous ensures of competing within the Indy 500 and two different races have been additionally dropped, leaving the proficient Swede with much less of an development prize than new Indy Professional 2000 champion Louis Foster, who acquired a bundle from Andersen Promotions price $614,425 to make the step as much as a season of Indy Lights. He duly signed with Andretti Autosport for 2023.

From a year-to-year foundation, the decreased Indy Lights commencement bundle represents a 58 % reduce in assist for the brand new champion. As nicely, with the value of one-off Indy 500 rides climbing to $800,000 or extra final Could, the $500,000 wouldn’t be sufficient by itself for Lundqvist or any future champion to take part in IndyCar’s marquee occasion. RACER understands that Lundqvist will have the ability to defer his prize till 2024 if he’s unable to land an IndyCar journey for subsequent yr.

The step backwards comes at a clumsy time because the collection is ready to go racing subsequent season with its largest discipline of entries in additional than a decade. The $1 million-plus scholarship and ensures of racing at Indy and different rounds has been a major draw up to now.

In keeping with these within the Indy Lights paddock who recounted a gathering with the brand new collection management on the finish of October final yr throughout the Chris Griffis Memorial take a look at, staff homeowners have been advised that whereas the precise contents of bundle was nonetheless to be decided, the $1.2 million champion’s development prize would both keep the identical or improve in 2022.

In January, a memo was distributed to groups confirming the return of prize cash being paid to the highest 4 finishers at each race together with the $500,000 that might be dedicated to the upcoming champion’s IndyCar scholarship. Based mostly on the assembly from October, those that spoke with RACER stated there was an expectation — albeit undefined within the memo — for different the entitlements, probably within the type of a free IndyCar engine lease and/or a free Firestone tire lease, to enrich the money prize for the champion.

Within the type of free engines or tires, the overall scholarship would have exceeded $1.2 million, however as final weekend’s IndyCar and Indy Lights celebration on the IMS Museum confirmed, Lundqvist acquired $500,000, and a portray from famend IndyCar starter and artist Jim Swintal, as his development bundle.

Talking with Indy Lights director Levi Jones, he says the choice was made to take the tough equal of what was handed to the champion by the previous collection promoter and provides it to its groups.

“My understanding is whereas it was below Andersen Promotions, IndyCar at all times contributed $500,000 to the championship scholarship,” Jones advised RACER. “And that’s nonetheless the identical. The staff that might obtain the scholarship is paid $500,000 from IndyCar.

Beneath the brand new prize construction, 2022 Indy Lights champion Linus Lundqvist (above) took residence lower than Indy Professional 2000 champion Louis Foster, and can nonetheless want to seek out extra funds for a one-off Indy 500 journey. Joe Skibinski/Penske Leisure

“The opposite aspect of that, which I feel will get misplaced within the shuffle, can be the race purses. There have been no race purses earlier than we took the collection again. So this yr, we had $735,000 paid out within the 14 races. In order that that variety of $735,000 and the $500,000 is the place that cash is at.”

Beneath the brand new plan, groups acquired $20,000 to win, $15,000 for second, $10,000 for third and $5000 for a fourth-place end. If drivers acquired a proportion of these winnings, these negotiations would have taken place with their respective groups beforehand.

Requested why the collection didn’t comply with its equal-or-greater champion’s scholarship message to groups from October, Jones stated, “As a collection, we’re at all times taking a look at the place we have to consider, the place issues are good, the place issues must be checked out. So, that’s the place we’re at on that.”

Andretti Autosport president JF Thormann, whose staff has been dedicated to Indy Lights longer than every other entrant, has been the prime mover with the outfit’s Highway to Indy packages and is struggling to seek out the positives within the collection’ new methodology of rewarding its champions.

“I used to be very stunned by it,” Thormann stated. “We’ve been such advocates for Lights; we have been there with 4 automobiles when there have been solely seven whole within the collection. Michael has been actually the largest supporter of the collection and a agency believer in creating younger expertise. And now, impulsively, to among the champions that don’t have a lot, this new strategy makes it more difficult, I feel, to fit the champion into IndyCar.”

Andretti’s staff — like the opposite entrants — has used the potential for profitable the sizable development prize and three assured IndyCar races as a serious enticement to draw younger expertise and their dad and mom/sponsors to fund their participation within the Lights collection.

“It was once one in all our largest promoting factors — the truth that we had an IndyCar staff and that profitable the championship would assist get you into IndyCar,” stated Thormann, whose staff produced three of the final 4 Lights champions.

“So yeah, there’ll be a brand new problem for us. It appears as if there are going to be extra individuals on the grid subsequent yr, though I don’t know in the event that they dedicated earlier than studying of this new prize system or not.”

Though the lack of $720,000 for the Indy Lights champion has created an unwelcome complication in delivering next-generation expertise to IndyCar, the redistribution of these funds to groups by way of prize cash has helped in a single regard.

RACER has discovered that in choose cases, a number of groups are open to providing a slight drop within the $1-1.5 million wanted to do a full season of Indy Lights. Relying on the caliber of driver, this willingness to supply a modest low cost relies upon the projection of receiving elevated earnings from prize cash if quite a few races are gained.

SPORT NEWS – Indy Lights champions development prize slashed


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